End-of-Life Discussion Group for Professionals on LinkedIn

A colleague of mine is an author and has written a book regarding her father’s death. She receives many requests and suggestions regarding the need for a professional ‘support’ group or a place where dialogue can occur among professionals. This is why I have created the End-of-Life Discussion Group for Professionals.

It is a group for professionals to share with one another on the topic of death, dying and end-of-life; whether from a personal perspective or professional one.

We can all learn from one another by sharing stories, articles, blog posts and research, but often what is missing is the ability to ‘vent’ the difficulties professionals face in their role in working with individuals who are dying, diagnosed with chronic health conditions or a progressive health issues or illness.

It would be wonderful if meaningful dialogue can occur and professionals whether from the field of social work, mental health, psychology, psychiatry, clergy, trauma oriented, nursing, physicians, etc are able to connect with other professionals in the helping/medical and healthcare fields.

Consider this as a group where linkage or access for professionals can occur to share and really talk. Sincere and meaningful communication has a healing affect. Respective discussions and dialogue are welcome by professionals. Anything of a derogatory, disrespectful or negative nature will be deleted.

As a professional who works with seniors/older adults, I have been exposed to many clients over the years diagnosed with chronic health conditions that progress. Some have fallen and broken a hip, collarbone or other bone. Hospitalization often occurs and some never leave the hospital and die there. Some transfer to rehabilitation, others to a long-term care facility or a few return home and die soon after. Others continue to live, but their quality of life is lacking-life is difficult. I have attended quite a few funerals.

I have been fortunate to know and to have worked with many of these clients for over 10+ years. When you develop a long-standing relationship and watch a client age, witness the frailty that occurs for some; it can be difficult. Death is inevitable and should a client want to discuss their impending departure, I am willing to listen. A professional needs to be with their client. At times a client may choose you over a family member to discuss end-of-life issues. Are you willing to go there? Do you feel comfortable to do so? If not, why not? If not, are you willing to push through the discomfort?

Education, awareness and advocacy are needed. All professionals that work with the chronically ill, those diagnosed with a progressive and degenerative illness, with seniors, in hospice or palliative care, medical settings, healthcare need to receive training and education in this area; I have found it is sorely lacking. The first awareness and education piece should come while a person is in university; while they are being taught in their respective discipline. Next, it should take place in the work environment with regular training occurring along with support offered.

Professionals can burn-out and self-care is needed. Good supervision is needed along with support groups or a support system among colleagues that allows professionals to vent, share and support one another.

I look forward to the dialogue!

Victoria Brewster, MSW


End-of-Life, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

The Words that are used in/about End-of-Life

In speaking with a colleague today about death, dying and end-of-life issues, we ended up discussing the words used; particularly in western society. ‘Passing, has passed, with the angels, with their deceased loved ones’ are words or phrases typically used. The words/terms ‘died, has died’ are not used in general circles. She made a keen observation. Look at obituaries here in the western world and you will see how one’s death is described.

I received the most recent newsletter from Dying with Dignity, Voice for Choice, December 2013. A palliative care physician calls for a dialogue. Dr. James Downar, DWD member and Advisory Council for Physicians says, “…Palliative Care cannot address all forms of suffering and that medically assisted dying can be legalized without threatening the vulnerable. The medical community is divided on it and many of the most respected palliative care physicians in Canada have publicly opposed it. We need to address the concerns of our colleagues and the public and find an inoffensive way to advocate for its legalization.”

Bill 52 in Quebec may pave the wave for legislation in other provinces re: Assisted Suicide.

Dying with Dignity is an organization that I came across purely by chance when researching death and dying for an article I was writing in August of 2013. I liked what I read and the organization’s mission aligns with my personal beliefs. One who is diagnosed with a chronic health condition where deterioration either mentally or physically is already beginning, is a given, or when an individual is diagnosed with a life threatening illness-if there is legislation in place and ”safety measures” in place, than it should be up to the individual and not a healthcare professional, or judge to make a decision.

Think about it. What would you want if it was you, a friend, colleague or family member? Would you want to suffer? Would you want them to suffer? Would you want to witness their deterioration physically or mentally for a prolonged length of time without quality of life? If you are unsure, that is ok-this has you thinking. If your answer is you do not believe in assisted suicide or other similar legislation, I do not think you would be interested in this topic/field or reading this blog post.

I decided to become a member of Dying with Dignity and a Volunteer. I want to be involved in educating others of the choices available to them. I want to speak on this topic, be part of or facilitate a panel discussion that includes those for and those against. To me it is about awareness, education and discussion. Everyone is entitled to a respective opinion. I like the fact that the board of directors includes physicians. Advance Care Planning Kits are available for each province electronically (free for download) and in hard copy form (for a small fee).

As a social worker who has a Master of Social Work degree and works with seniors/older adults-compassion, empathy, advocacy and being with the client where they are at is important. Death is inevitable; as my colleague stated: “A physiological state.” And the words we use to describe death are important.

What are you thoughts?

By Victoria Brewster, MSW

Aging/Gerontology, Education, Neuroscience, Neuroplasticity, Neurolinguistic Programming

Staff Development on Neuroscience, Neuroplasticity and Trends….

I was fortunate to take part in a staff development with a presenter who focused on Neuroscience, Understanding Normal Aging and Neuropathologies Associated with the Aging Process with Martha S. Burns, PhD.

She is a dynamic speaker who has an amazing grasp on the topic and is able to bring it down a few notches (language wise) so that the ‘typical’ person understands what she is talking about. She uses very technical words/terms at times and I almost needed to pull out my medical dictionary, but then she would use humour to make the topic understood.

Personally, I am fascinated with neuroscience and neuroplasticity, have read quite a bit on the subject, stay up-to-date as much as possible to enhance my own learning process, but it also keeps my brain active and this is good for us to help ward off disease as we age.

The human brain has been studied for years and the technology which allows us to see and learn about the brain continues to change. The newest technology allows researchers and physicians to see the brain network, to study the various sections of the brain in much more detail.

The newest research coming out of Japan related to Alzheimer’s by Makoto Higuchi and his team, involves the development of a class of radioactive molecules that can be used to image live brains and expose one of the two proteins in the brain, Tau. Amyloid Beta (AB) is what has been researched and studied over the past 10-12 years with medications created and designed to target AB protein in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s and they do not appear to be working. Now the Tau protein is a focus and a new round of research and medications will begin!

These proteins cause inflammation in the brain which leads to symptoms that we recognize and witness in one affected by an illness or disease that attacks the brain (Parkinson’s, MS, Dementia, Autism).

Martha Burns is a clinician who studies the brain, but is also a speech pathologist and has worked extensively with post-stroke individuals. She was able to demonstrate visually the nuances of a post-stroke individual affected by aphasia (inability to speak), lack of visual-spatial skills, Theory of Mind (ability to think about others thoughts), social skills, and more.

She then focused on the newest research material, trends, possible treatment options and ended with how to assist ‘senior’ clients to enhance their cognitive function. Diet, exercise, meditation and cognitive stimulation were discussed in more detail.

Diet-whole grain products, avoiding saturated fats, incorporating essential fatty acids, lean proteins into the diet along with a plethora of colourful and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Exercise-30 minutes a day minimum. walking, exercise equipment, walking up and down stairs, etc.

Meditation- types of relaxation

Cognitive Stimulation- the importance to learn and do something new each day.

Sleep-the time our body and mind recharges-very important.

She also discussed ‘hubs’ of the brain and how music, art, writing and navigation are very important to our brains. Navigation is not my thing, but all the creative things are…..think about how you are affected by music, theatre, art, and crafts of pottery, weaving, knitting, crocheting, quilting, jewelry making, stained glass, etc.

When it comes to navigation we tend to be creatures of habit-walking or driving the same way each day. Turns out it is good for our brains to walk a different route and drive another route to arrive at the same destination. We use and activate sections of the brain that then stimulates other sections of the brain and this is a good thing!

I walked away with a lot of information and motivation and I hope you do as well after reading this post!

Victoria Brewster, MSW

News, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Guest Bloggers Sought

I created this blog one year ago to focus on my personal and professional interests. I am a case manager working with ‘older adults’ in a community centre here in Montreal. I also enjoy writing and having a blog allows me to mesh my career interests. It has been a good year with over 255 posts published!

This blog for the most part has focused on the topics of aging, advocacy, education, end-of-life, healthcare and social work.

I am seeking a few guest bloggers to share articles on these same issues/topics.

If interested, contact me at: vikki.brewster@gmail.com